November 4, 2008

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Gotham Central Volume 4

Written by Greg Rucka
Illustrated by Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Kano, and Gary Amaro
DC Comics

Hey, did you know Greg Rucka made one of the main bat-characters a lesbian? Yeah, so now we get to see this lesbian be called a dyke at her job--all the time! But hey, she's still tough, she can fight fights! But maybe she's only doing it because she's a lesbian! But just in case you aren't sure, let's make sure we see her at home more than any other Gotham cop, because, hey, SHE'S A LESBIAN!

This appears to be the thing Greg Rucka decided to do with this solo writing set on Gotham Central. It's all Montoya all the time, and since she's gay (which is cool), Rucka seems to want to make sure the reader never forgets it, putting in overt or subtle references every issue (not cool). If this were balanced by seeing the home life of Captain Sawyer, Commissioner Atkins, Josie Mac, or *any* of the rest of the cast, this wouldn't be a problem. But because it's just our resident poster child for being integrated, the references feel gratuitous and hurt my enjoyment of the story. When the only bedroom scene is one of two lesbians, I'm afraid I stop thinking honorably about the writer's intentions.

The stories themselves are actually pretty good because for the first time in four trades, Batman is less a figure who saves the day and more a person who happens to shop up when there's major criminal activity to be found. I've complained in my other reviews of this series of "Deus Ex Batina"--i.e., just when it looks like the cops are going to lose, Batman comes and saves them. Not because that's unrealistic, but because we have Batman, Detective, Confidential, and so on for stories like that. This to me is a series that should focus on the cops of Gotham. For a change, and to his credit, that's mostly what Rucka does here.

The first story is exactly the type of thing I think this title was perfect for. Two detectives (but did it really have to be Montoya, Greg?) get involved in a meta-crime, but there's no Bat this time. Our characters play things out on their own, no matter how bad some of GCPD's employees try to make it a mess. This is the side of things Batman the book isn't there to tell. Perhaps the results aren't perfect, but we see that the right group of people can in fact get the job done, even if the tactics involved are not too far from the Dark Knight himself that they frequently chastise.

Our middle story is really useless. After the events of Yet Another Dumb Batman Event, Commissioner Atkins decides to take the Bat Signal down, as some sort of protest. Bats of course asks why, and we get the reason. It ends with Bats saying, "I'm not going anywhere"--except that he does in 52--and Atkins really silently praying he doesn't. Yawn. Better would have been to make it so that Bats is to be shot on sight or something.

Last up is Montoya (again) getting the feature and facing off against a Flash rogue. This one does have some Bat action, but it's limited, and he really doesn't save the day--at best, he complicates a bad deal. In addition, for a change, it really feels like he's the one going about things the wrong way. There's far too much of Montoya's sexuality played into this story, but the ending is really gut-wrenching as things accelerate out of control. Is that because no cop can handle a meta? Or is it because of the Bat?

All in all, this is my favorite of the ones I've read so far. It's a shame that the art has completely and utterly fallen apart by this point. There were times when it felt like the inker (sometimes Guadiano, sometimes Kano) just plain old forgot to put lines where there used to be pencils. Some people have called this a noirish style, but I think it just looks awful. All in all, however, I am pretty happy with this series and will be sorry to see it end.